F-35 and Geography

Program progress, politics, orders, and speculation
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illya

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Unread post01 Nov 2019, 13:05

Hello ;

I think this is the right place to ask this question, but if not, then I apologize in advance.
I am a third-year student in political geography, and I am writing a paper on the American defence industry. I chose the example of Lockheed Martin and more specifically the F-35 program. I am interested in the geographical and political aspects of this program, both for Lockheed Martin and for the United States.

You can easily understand why I have decided to humbly ask for your assistance.

Suppliers are located in almost all states of the United States. The senators of these states must support this program, guaranteeing its security. Beyond that, I don't have many sources. I have the impression that it is possible to dig further, but I don't have enough elements.

Do you know where I could find information?

Perhaps there are particular states where there has been a local political conflict over the F-35?

Thank you for your attention:)
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madrat

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Unread post01 Nov 2019, 13:26

The program benefits by not farming out to any one sole source, so I'm not understanding your question. Free market forces drive down costs by allowing competition on obfuscated parts manufacturing. Strict specs. Lockheed Martin keeps manufacturer's abreast of specifications, but not necessarily where the smaller parts go or why. Subcontractors bid to assemble parts into larger sub-assemblies along the way that are strictly based upon specifications. Obsfucation adds security and keys into market forces to drive down costs.
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spazsinbad

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Unread post01 Nov 2019, 13:48

Obsfucation? Could you find a better word please? I don't think it is appropriate in context used. Otherwise please explain.

The LM F-35 website has a lot of info:
https://www.f35.com/about/economic-impact & https://www.f35.com/about/economic-impact-map
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zhangmdev

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Unread post01 Nov 2019, 15:24

Political aspect of the program? I'd recommend Joe Sutter's memior about the 747 program. Once upon a time the Boeing management wanted to locate 747 assembly line in California, to gain political favor, but the foolish plan was shotdown by the engineers. The prime example of politics trumps engineering is NASA's human space flight program. Basically some senator from some state mandate the design of some rocket. You see, that doesn't work. If the purpose of the program is to produce a working machine to defend the nation for decades to come, (at a considerable cost of course,) not to keep some senator re-elected and a bunch of people employed, politics must take the back seat.
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illya

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Unread post01 Nov 2019, 15:31

Thank you for your answers.
It's true that I'm not very comfortable with English. I'll make an effort.

I am interested in this program from a geographical point of view related to political organization. Thus, I am looking to see if there have been any local political conflicts related to the F-35 program (for example, two candidates in an election opposing each other over the establishment of a plant in a state). This kind of information may be more widespread for Americans citizens.
Or, perhaps, have there been cases where the Pentagon has ordered more F-35s to maintain the establishment of a factory or supplier in a state?

The map provided by the LM website is interesting, but lacks precision (obviously, this is normal). But, thank you for taking the time to post it here.
I will look at the Joe Sutter's memoir. Thank you, I'll keep you informed of what I can learn. But, is there something similar about the F-35 ?
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zhangmdev

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Unread post01 Nov 2019, 16:28

You can search pogo.org, which is full of pieces about F-35 condemning the evil oligarchical military-industrial complex. If you like that kind of stuff.
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Prinz_Eugn

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Unread post01 Nov 2019, 17:37

illya wrote:Hello ;

I think this is the right place to ask this question, but if not, then I apologize in advance.
I am a third-year student in political geography, and I am writing a paper on the American defence industry. I chose the example of Lockheed Martin and more specifically the F-35 program. I am interested in the geographical and political aspects of this program, both for Lockheed Martin and for the United States.

You can easily understand why I have decided to humbly ask for your assistance.

Suppliers are located in almost all states of the United States. The senators of these states must support this program, guaranteeing its security. Beyond that, I don't have many sources. I have the impression that it is possible to dig further, but I don't have enough elements.

Do you know where I could find information?

Perhaps there are particular states where there has been a local political conflict over the F-35?

Thank you for your attention:)


Hey a Geographer! I'm in the GIScience subfield however.

It will be relatively easy to find lots of non-academic sources critical of the program (Like POGO- project on government oversight), and those are potential starting points, but you should be able to find things like GAO (Government Accountability Office) reports that will cover things more authoritatively without the crazy bias.

Lockheed likely has a ton of publicity material related to economic impact as part of their general lobbying effort, and you might even be able to reach out to them (maybe through F-35.com) OR the actual F-35 program office for such material (through jsf.mil).

It's no secret that there is a political component to spreading out defense work in addition to cost/economic reasons, which has been the case essentially since... forever. A useful quote in this context is from Sir Sydney Camm (designer of the Hawker Hurricane) on the failed TSR-2 project: "All modern aircraft have four dimensions: span, length, height and politics. TSR-2 simply got the first three right." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BAC_TSR-2).

Don't forget about the US House of Representatives as an important component of the US political process.

A specific topic to look into would be the debate about the alternate engine (GE/Rolls-Royce F136), which was eventually cancelled. Ha, a quick search found this an example of a congresswoman in a district where the competing F135 engine was being worked on railing against the "waste" of the F136: https://pingree.house.gov/news/document ... mentID=913

International conflict might be a little more interesting, there's been a ton of controversy with Turkey getting kicked out of the program, and they were the sole supplier for some parts.
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madrat

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Unread post01 Nov 2019, 19:14

spaz-

The bidding is for serialized parts with zero description of what they are for as the bottom level manufacturers do not need to know this.
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sferrin

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Unread post01 Nov 2019, 19:22

madrat wrote:spaz-

The bidding is for serialized parts with zero description of what they are for as the bottom level manufacturers do not need to know this.


And they often trade manufacturers anyway. Company A having problems building the parts to spec or on time? Company B gets the contract next Lot until Company A gets it together.
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spazsinbad

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Unread post01 Nov 2019, 19:54

madrat wrote:spaz-
The bidding is for serialized parts with zero description of what they are for as the bottom level manufacturers do not need to know this.

Thanks. It was not clear to me what you were getting at earlier. Still as clear as mud but at least some know about it. :roll:
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viper12

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Unread post01 Nov 2019, 22:27

I'd also point out the F-35 program isn't limited to the U.S. ; you can check out the various international partners which are already in the F-35 program or may be in the future : https://www.f35.com/global

The U.K. for example is the only level 1 partner, so it provides a fair chunk of the F-35's components : https://www.f35.com/global/participatio ... kingdom-ip

Another example is Italy with several subcontractors and the only Final Assembly and CheckOut plant for the F-35 in Europe : https://www.f35.com/global/participatio ... ticipation

So while most of the F-35 program relies on a vast network of subcontractors in the U.S., dozens of suppliers are located in partner nations, producing parts or providing depot-level maintenance for a given region.
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